Legal challenge over lights plan

PUBLISHED: 05:10 21 December 2006 | UPDATED: 10:03 31 May 2010

Uttlesford District Council’s logo

Uttlesford District Council’s logo

FEARS for the safety of Saffron Walden residents may lead Uttlesford District Council to mount a legal challenge against the county council s streetlight proposals. The district council feels Essex County Council s consultation on the matter was inadequat

FEARS for the safety of Saffron Walden residents may lead Uttlesford District Council to mount a legal challenge against the county council's streetlight proposals.

The district council feels Essex County Council's consultation on the matter was inadequate and that they may have breached a clause in the Crime and Disorder Act 1988.

Section 17 of the act states that local authorities must consider crime implications of all policies and practices, a condition that the district council is unconvinced has been adhered to.

Leader of Uttlesford council, Cllr Mark Gayler, said: "While there may be places where it would be possible to switch off streetlights, we are concerned about the impact on our larger communities.

"In many places, turning off the lights will increase the fear of crime, and be a threat to personal safety.

"It's all very well to say the lights will be left on in the centre of town, but if people want to walk home they will be walking into unlit roads."

Cllr Rodney Bass, Essex County Council cabinet member for highways and transportation, said he had agreed to reconsider the arrangements for the trial due to take place in Saffron Walden town in January.

"The trial is still on, but I have agreed to take longer to evaluate the situation in the town. Certain issues have been highlighted to me by Cllr Robert Chambers, Sir Alan Haselhurst MP and Cllr Jim Ketteridge," he said.

"We will look at running a sub-pilot within the pilot, and are now likely to implement the pilot in Saffron Walden town towards February or March.

"We are trying to conduct a thorough, fair investigation of the issues that have been raised to us and are anxious to resolve local problems."

Cllr Bass said he felt the county council had fulfilled its legal requirements when drawing up the proposals and would not comment on the possibility of a judicial review.

Considerable opposition to the county council's plans, which are intended to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and light pollution, has led to the possibility of Saffron Walden's streetlights being switched off from 1am, not from 12am as had been originally planned.

However, the rest of the district will still have its lights switched off from midnight.

Cllr Gayler said: "This is an outrageous suggestion. Cllr Bass is attempting to divide and rule by offering a sop to Saffron Walden, whilst imposing his plans on other communities in the district.

"The scheme needs to be reconsidered across the whole district, and concerns about community safety need to be taken on board."

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